tv Author Discussion on Outlaws in U.S. History CSPAN October 10, 2019 9:34pm-10:37pm EDT
this has been constant. they were actively involved in 2016 as we saw in the e-mails for john podesta and others on the campaign. they tried to infiltrate our system. they put out false information and then they were very active on social media trying to pit americans against each other over domestic issues whether it is race or immigration or guns and what have you. and they're holding is to discredit our democracy, to cause people in this country to hate one another into turn one against one another and to try to weaken us from within. >> sunday at nine eastern on book tv on c-span2.
this is about one hour welcome to the fifth annual book festival at the department of archives this panel is titled american history, renegades and is sponsored by the mississippi library commission. tracy carr was with the library commission was in the room for the very first organizational meeting of the festival. we couldn't do this without the mississippi library commission or the libraries from all over the state to thank you very much for your support. and we are in the room today courtesy of the law firm and our gratitude goes to them.
our panelists you can purchase copies of their books from vendors outside and find the times are authors will be signing in the program. we will hear from our panelists for about 40 minutes and then open up the floor to questions please come to the podium in the center of the room to ask yourse questions. now help me welcome our moderator for the panel director of the mississippi department of archives and history. [applause] i'm going to tell you about these guys and then we will start the conversation. tom was a reporter for "the new york times" and editor of the weekly newspapers before turning to writing full-time. for this except "the new york times" bestsellers, the heart of everything that is and the last stand of fox company. company. wild bill was published by saint martin's press in february 2019
and this n-november harper collins wilnovember harpercollid in new york. eric is the author of 13 books including leviathan the history of whaling in america named one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the "los angeles times" and "boston globe" and also won the 2007 john weinman award for the u.s. maritime history. his most recent book was brilliant beacon a history of the american white house. he lives in massachusetts with his family, and on the end, peter is a freelance writer and in his career as an emergency medical technician, he's written a number of articles related to his profession including the impact of ptsd on first responders. he's written a number of book reviews forre's the papers, he'a native of southern california and he now lives in fairfield county connecticut and this is
his first book. soel i'm going to ask each of yu to say a few words about your book and give us an overview and then we will come up with some questions. speak to >> okay. thank you for telling me. okay. can you hear me? you've got that at the right time. thank you. i will talk very briefly about my book which is about wild bill hill talk. it was a book i had no intention of writing. it sort of snuck up on me. i have done a book that came out a couple of years ago about when they were younger or more men together in kansas and when the book came out it was successful and i had been working on a different a world war ii story, but my editor looking at the bottom line said is there another iconic western figures you can think of for maybe
deserves to have some treatment, and i said the name that popped into my headphones while phil because it was a name i think we all recognized. we all recognized the name of the other thing we might think about him is that he was a gunfighter and i said if all the key was i not really that tcinterested. oglet me do some research. and the book that came out of that portrays him as a fervent abolitionist, spy behind confederate lines in the civil war, deputy u.s. marshal in abilene kansas, he was a broadway performer, star of theater and of course a gambler that finished up his career in deadwood south dakota and one other thing i will add very briefly, one of the joys of working on the book i discovered she'd been associated with and
was a big love affair goes back to the movie with jean arthur as the love affair of the two of them. actually, the advice and the woman that he eventually married was one of the most remarkable women of the 18 hundreds. she was one of the major rivals of barnum and bailey and the ringling brothers and nobody knows who she is. she had an amazing career and fell in love, took a few years, so that is one of the unexpected pleasures of l the book to porty this remarkable person who literally had been lost in the midst of history, so thank you. >> first i'd like to give a shout out to john evans because he is one of the reasons i'm here. he read my book and asked if they would invite me down so i would like to thank him for doing that and think thehe mississippi book festival for inviting me to come down and it
got really hot this morning i'm not used to that. [laughter] h but i just want to tell you a little bit about how this book began as well. usually i just go to libraries and read a bunch of books and try to find something i'm interested in and then pitch it to my agent and publisher. for this book i did something quite different. i got my teenage children in the room and have three or four ideas and started telling them enwhat i wanted to write about d when i mentioned pirates, both of their eyes lit up and they said that's it, you have to. and i got excited because although i've written plenty of books, neither of my kids had read any of them. [laughter] and i have to report since my daughter just graduated from college, she actually read the book and said she enjoyed it. my son who is a freshman in college has only agreed to read it perhaps by the time he is 50-years-old, so i am one for two.
anyway it is about the pirates of the golden age which stands for about 1726 and there've been a lot of books. my book adds to that literary evlineage but with a slight twi. i focus on those that either upgraded out in the american colonies or plundered along the american shore, so the book is split up into two sections before 1700 after. before 1700, pirate pirates ande colonies were welcomed with open arms because here they were on the edge of empire. they were starved of currency. they didn't like how england was treating them and pirates were coming from the caribbean and also from the red sea. they were going there for muslim ships and bringing their riches back to the w colonies, so governors were getting paid off to take letters to pirates to go off and when they came back to the colonies with their money,
they were reintegrated into those colonies. england shut down about 1700 then after the succession in 1713, piracy came roaring back the type most of you no doubt are familiar with and that is when blackbeard was upon the seas. i always find it funny that it's the most outside the one most people have heard about but only for about a year and a half. she didn't have a particularly successful career and when he died they cut his head off and before the british naval lieutenant took it back to williamsburg. anyway, the book got a lot of gihangings and it. a lot of death and destruction but also it is a book about american history and it just uses pirates as a backbone to tell the story. and i had a lot of fun writing the book and researching a it. >> well, we have cowboys and pirates and i got a bank robber.
[laughter] other than vampires, you have got four of the mainstays of things that have remained. my story is about a group of young men led by a born-again christian with strong end times beliefs who attempted a takeover robbery of the pacific bank in norco california just outside of los angeles on may 9 and it turned into one of the most violent events in american law enforcement history. when it was over there were three dead, 15 wounded including seven sheriffs deputies and there were 32 police cars, either disabled or destroyed by gunfire or explosive devices. there was a police helicopter and itt was shot down over san bernardino county. the scope of this is what attracted me to m it.
i'm a native from southern california, as was said. and i grew up right near a where this happened, but the scope of the event is what drove me to it. these are five heavily armed. young men shooting civilian grade military, civilian versions of the military grade weapons. they've made homemade fragmentation that they can launch out of the perils of their shotguns and as luck would have it, and a lot of bad planning the minute they stepped outside of the bank they came facface-to-face into just eruptd into a wild fire fight in a crowded intersection on a friday afternoon which over 100 pounds over 500 rounds were fired and then to a bombing gun battle to the suburban streets of riverside and san bernardino counties onto a crowded interstate highway where they were throwing out fragmentation
shooting, police helicopters and ended up 6500 feet upon a fire road clinging to the mountainside where the road is launched out and i don't want to give too much of this the way that they ambushed so this is the scope of it and the context that itnt fits after the los angeles area beginning at about 1980 and then extending into the middle of the 1990s which is one of the backdrops on it and the impact has a lot to do with the way the local police forces are armed and the way they deal with posttraumatic stress disorder. >> all of the people chose to
come to this panel over others including supreme court justice, so let me ask you all why do the readers enjoy books about bad guys, violent stories, renegades, what do you think the appeal is? i'm not casting aspersions. [laughter] >> for this perspective there's nothing more gripping or a dramatic and to read about a horrid chick act. it just grabs your attention. and it's like why do people rubberneck when they are on the highway and there's an accident. why do these headlines grab your attention. and there's also something in the nature of not just american history, but world history. it is incredibly violent. there's something about our own human nature that tend tends tod violence in many different forms going back as long as we have
recorded history and certainly before that so maybe there's something very animalistic about it, wanting to read about it. i also think that there is an aspect in the sense that you can read about these acts but hopefully none of you would ever want to perpetrate that you can sort of maybe put yourself in a perspective and think what would have been like and maybe there is an input to say better than ban me. there's no doubt death, destruction, these acts of violence attracted your attentin like almost no other topic. [laughter] >> i also think when you take a hard look at someone who does something almost unimaginable tw you, you know, in my case these were five young men with no criminal records.
they just threw away their lives and the lives of other people in a single day bu single day but s also the fascinationle with how someone gets to that point that they take a step like that, or in the case of pirates or mythological figures like wild bill boy's father was a fascination with the steps that get someone more like me or us or you to somebody that's doing something extraordinary and almost unimaginable. i think that is a fascinating thing tord look at. >> absolutely. >> just to add something in the case of wild bill, there is a romanticism about the lone gunmen and the person that is living a life that most other people certainly many of us don't live. i mean, he was a unique figure. physically he was unique, 6 feet tall at the age when the average height for a male was probably
5-foot five or 5-foot six tall, muscular, lena, here down to his shoulders, the moccasins, sombrero, he was ambidextrous, he had a gun on each side and could shoot accurately withme eh hand and up until the day that he died, said he lived a life where he ruled all overht the place and had adventures on the prairie anprairie and on the pli think for most of us we don't have a life you are never going to havto have that life comes we closest we are going to get is this feeling of okay i'm going to read this story and live this life the next 360 pages because i know when i put the bookk down its back to i'm going to mow the lawn. i've got to get the laundry basket or the laundromat or that kind of thing. >> all three of you frame the story is in your book against the backdrop of the historical period and the larger society.
let's talk about that. and i was especially interested in the civil war connection and wailed the father. >> another reason he was kind of unique, his parents are from new england and they came out with was the frontier than in the 1830s to be farmers and illinois. his father and mother brought with them their abolitionist views to illinois and they believed that the farm became a station in the underground railroad. it wouldn't be unusual for the young james butler to go to the farm and there would be a family of escaped or runaway slaves waiting until the next night or two nights later when they were loaded into the back of the wagon with some hay thrown over them. his fathe father was taken to tt
station along the way. and it wasn't surprising the civil warar broke out and he joined the union army and saw the early battles of the war, the sharpshooter, but he became a spy and always had this coolness under pressure. one of the things that made him effective as he had a perfect belief, he really did come up witdid, thecouple that haven't n manufactured that could kill him. so, when someone comes around, and when there is a gun battle to make believed he was going to persevere, and he did, but in the civil war, he actually wore the confederate uniforms and infiltrated the staff to listen as they were strategizing things and getting this information back to the union lines and i think there was another aspect that made him a renegade at any point. he could have been on task and shot as he was found out and put in the shed to be shot at dawn
he managed to find his way through. so there was a renegade aspect of him doing a job that most people either couldn't do it effectively or didn'tsh want to because there would be r no tri, there would be immediate death for the most part. >> i definitelyth think that running a haven for runaway slaves on the underground railroad is a different version of taking justice into your own hands. it's a fascinating connection. do you all have any -- >> there are really two things where the era in which thisre tk place had a big impact on it. as i mentioned, the leader, the young man who put this bank robbery together was a born-again christian with a very heavy end of times belief. theology is steeped in the book of revelation. now i'm certainly not suggesting that does lead one to bank robbery, but in the case of
george wayne smith and he came out of orange county california where there were these in the 1970s there were these ministries that were aggressively evangelicals and this is the book of revelation rapture, end times theology and george began to believe that that was going to happen soon. and when he looked out at the world and try to match up current events with prophecies, there was a lot to see in the 1970s, not the least of which was the very real threat of nuclear obliteration. so, george was really preparing to be able to survive vicataclysmic events and he bece heavily armed and turned his house into a fortress along with his friend also took part in the bank robbery. the other is that not too many
people know that los angeles is the bank robbery capital of the world.y for many years, for decades, it's only recently changed. one out of every four bank robberies in the united states takes place r within the jurisdiction of the field office of the fbi. and there are a number of reasons, but the main one is you rob a bank next to a freeway and fiveon the freeway and minutes later in the good old days of los angeles, driving down rush hour two or 5 miles of a probably cruising beside the streets of a completely different police jurisdiction. 1980 was the sort of beginning of that. by 1990, therehe were 2600 bank robberies in that region, 14 at a a better height and 28 in one day. so it is fertile ground for bank robberies. when people go looking out for
money, quick money in los angeles, they usually look more so after paying stand a doing other areas, so fitting within the context of that epidemic that ran between about 1980 and 1990, 97, those are two aspects of which it took place. one of the things history has taught me is that the root of a lot of action is lack of money, desire for money and the way that plays out prior to 1700 the american colonies was a very small place on the outskirts of the empire,, it was treated by the mother country who viewed it as a source of good. it was starved of currency coming and even back then in the late 16 hundreds, there was the sort of echo of what would later bbecome the cry during the american revolution, no taxation without representation. all that sort of stuff, there was a lot of presentment.
so even though piracy was against the wall in the late 16 hundreds, the colonies decided that they would and could profit from it. when it was claimed on in 1700 it came back to the 17 teams, money then played again on other central role because by 1715, the american colonies were larger than they were more prosperous, merchants were a more powerful group from england was treating them a little bit better, and all of a sudden they were attacking muslim ships halfway around the world and bringing key then send money back to the colonies.
it was the welcome pirates before and wanted their money and now that it was in their own bottom line they teamed up with the mother country and waged an all-out war that ultimately ended in 1726 which was the last hanging of the pirates in bost boston. it was the key factor determining peoples motivations and why they did what they did u. might not necessarily like, respect or identify with, and i want to start one of the strengths of your book is the incredible complexity of the characters. the bank robbers are all
fascinating, complicated people, and above police the same way and you go into their story. it's really interesting. did you know, you said you are attracted because of thehe scope of the story. did you know you were going to find these rich personal costories? i will say this if it were just a big bang bang shoot them up event, which it was, i alone probably what i would have. if it was one-dimensional it otuld not have interested me that much. you know, on a story like this, to a certain extent there has to be a larger human element to it, but i was 17-years-old when it happened, and much older when i started to get into it and i was wafascinated with what i was abe to reveal about it and the way that it touched so many lives
and continues to ripple through the agency. the police officers involved all went on journeys afterwards in different ways as a result of being -- these are guys that have law-enforcement officers that had 1700 rounds of gunfire shot at them. some 12, 14 times, 46 times to ttheir vehicle. to be under such heavy gunfire is terrifying. and they all freely admit they were still guarding the wild weswildwest as these deputies we same thing they were 100 years before. ..
write incident reports and there is a wealth of documents to go through with also the people involved. >> how did you feel about blackbeard at the end? >> one of the questions i am almost asked with this book is my favorite and i have to re- phrase it was the most fascinating because they were all pretty miserable people i would love to have a drink with themciti with their motivation. and it is fascinating and with
the subterranean personalityt but the most psychopathic and despicable pirate of all, a guy named edward lowe to torture and kill his victims and one of his signatureim moves to cut off their lips and ears and roast them and force them to each their ownn flesh before he ran them through. he was a nasty guy. blackbird one - - blackbeard is fascinating he is portrayed as a viciousat pirate captain but we only have a record we don't have anything a record of violin to his victims that are still living. and got most of his way through intimidation.
every once in a while they kill people to get you scared and then people would surrender when they see the pirate flagra on top. i don't have a problem writing about people i don't identify with that for those that are relatively uneducated and if you look at piracy it's like going into a casino when you walk into everybody thinks they are going to win a few hours later most have lost but it is the same with pirates. there was that element of humanity but if you really dig into their a story, they were a bunch of miserable people and they are fun to read r about. [laughter]
>> and insight into your subterranean personality is what we're after here. [laughter] and then became a poignant character for me and to talk about context when i was working on the book with wild bill hickok is the story of the american west and recently i could not change with it. he was the lone gunman after civil war and that's a you clean up the town. at the time of the gunfight at the okay corral but herb was not the marshall but the chief of police the head of the police department everything
was cheesy with the judicial system and then they could not keep up with it. and that was like a tragic character. but then the hickok family in the 16 hundreds and then a couple centuries later and the frontier was basically before the civil war so much of the great americannd desert opened up with the wagon trains and the gold strikers. and the west was changing he
washe like believing his own legend and then to say i give up there is a poignancy to which. i expected hickok when i started the book to be a completely heroic figure that i felt sorry for he was only 39 when he died and could not tell his own story like wyatt earp who was in his eighties. he had those varying ideas and it was so much and he would not have done well if he had lived longer or been as comfortable are more
vulnerable in the world that we see vaulting around him. but it was like the justification that's hard to live in the 18 eighties and 19 nineties. >> so encountering pirates with popular culture and your historian colleagues are bothered by that and the inaccuracies and those generalizations but you say i'm not interested in effecting or criticizing it as they are meant to be. and as most of us feel about the stories but writing about your own wealth from separating fact from fiction. >> yes.
i love the first two pirates of the caribbean movies the rest i could do without i love watching movies and reading the books that are fictionalized accounts but this is a nonfiction book. and that's when the most interesting things about the book. pirates that make people walk the plank i couldn't find any pirates had wooden legs but we have romanticized johnny depp primarily as that example that is very accurate to dress rather lavishly that was in part to stick the middle finger up to the standards of
the proper society of the time and when they took over a ship that had a lot of nice clothes or people that were transported from the upper class to force them to strip and take their close if they were wearing rings or necklace and take those asho well and dress quite lavishly. oit was fascinating to dissect from the historical record what is real and what is not. from a writer's perspective since the goal is to get readers sometimes it was tough to demolish those myths because those become a myth for that very reason. it just feels comfortable and amazing at such a great story.
and then you want to include them because the public wants to read them. so i got the best of both world worlds. >> in just a minute we will open for your questions and as you come up to the podium i will throw this out to each of you what do you love and hate to read? >> i love to read tom of course. [laughter] [applause] i am a historian with an undergraduate masters in policy and biology the last history class in college the last english class was high school given how my editor puts in a lot of, is i wish i could take another class.
i have to read so much about my topic i don't have a lot of time for pleasure reading and when i do i tend to read nonfiction or biography.r that's what i really love i wish i had time to read fiction i have not read much fiction in early on in my career with a place in the 17 hundreds and 18 hundreds i read a lot of books from those arrows and when you read so much material a certaino way then you start to write to like that and one of my earliest editors who was a former editor at random house and wrote me a notee on a book that i thank you are in the wrong century.
i can't say i read every single word but i found them fascinating that's the kind of book that i enjoy reading about people. and with that incredible long list of books that i meant to read. >> those that have a big body of work with a mutual admiration. they do i read a lot of fiction. my masters in fiction writing.
and that means that you skimp on research or details and to keep that narrative flow arherent and the importance of the largest story and they do that very well and you do that very well and others do it well but there is a huge admiration for fiction writers. and that's what i like. >> i feel fortunate i very
rarely come across but the few times that are not work related. i read through it i have michael connelly and the scottish writer i enjoy a the page turner's. they are a lot of fun and back in the day like the paper but one - - the paperbacks one of my favorite writer ever is chandler. i have fun but i reading for work. >> all three of you right like those like to read and this is
this was the early 18 hundreds but i wondered if your research had shed light on the mystery? >> it ends in 1726. in the same reason i didn't do a deep dive. i have not read extensively i've heard about that. want to have blinders on. and trying to focus as much as you can and that affects your story. is so why don't you write about the tripoli pirates or a book about piracy in the early
18 hundreds. my next book is on hurricanes although it's a history and it actually mentions the brothers for another reason. but you have to read the book to find out why. [laughter] >> for each of the three authors what is the best american movie that accurately portrays what you have found in your research? >> muppets treasure island. [laughter] [applause] a close second to goonies.
[laughter] captain blood is very good. i like the pirates of caribbean but they are light on history. >> the bank robbery that i write about is the gangster era of those robberies with guns blazing. anybody remember a name of a gangster movie? like cots and run long cops and robbers and shoot them up they are terribly inaccurate and overblown and unrealistic. that is the era that it harkensy back to. >> wild bill has been portrayed a few times. and then to go back to gary
cooper even a bizarre movie a lled the white buffalo where bronson played in the first season of deadwood he died after six episodes. spsorry spoiler alert. [laughter] but i cannot recommend any particular picture. >> i am hard of hearing but you may have answered the questions which was a favorite depiction in a movie? >> you are assuming in that question that i have watched a a huge number of pirate movies
which is not the case. but i really do enjoy the treasure island movie with little jackie cooper. i really like that because long john silver that he has that glint in his eye while he is killinge people. [laughter] i love the cinematography and it takes you away. and i don't know about the pirate movies as much as pirate books. >>.
>> there have been multiple treasure island movies. >> what is your most favorite western gunslinger move on - - movie? >> my favorite western that looking at thend hickok book with the gunfighters. there is a picture called the gunfighters he's trying to get out of the life and having trouble doingbl that. and the jack shafer wrote a wonderful book and then turn
that into a very good story then you have a character who has come to this farm where they live and then to get out of the gunfighter life but then is pulled back around it. so there is that character that identify with because of the hickok character. >> and those you don't really like those connections and then the underexplored in my opinion world of southern california crime of which i think the creepy serial killers of the late sixties andd early seventies there is a
whole different divide to police forces in southern california and and also something and with those other places and that culture as did with manson and n a number of others. >> on bank robberies when the lever is caught in and they go to jail but what you may have learned in your research but then they never went to jail
so did you learn that what kind of insights did you draw from that? >> from the los angeles bank robbery i did spend some time ahead of the bank robbery task force of the fbi in that area the vast majority one bank robber one teller. but the vast majority are robbing them that they need money fast. it is an addiction. and then you walk out but then eventually your luck runs out. and then the fbi did not even pay attention until there were
six or seven. but mostly they are caught because police cars going by then there is a silent alarm somebody jots down the license plate. the vast majority do get caught.er and that's and then everybody get down on the floor now. and those bank robbers get caught there is too much that can go wrong. and then you are told to give them what they want and get the hell out of the bank before somebody gets hurt.
now they get, and nowadays the number of bank robbers at the height was 2600 los angeles now it's 250 now with technology everybody has a camera they can take pictures of you in the bank and face recognition so there's not a great success rate for bank robbers because they repeat. >> for those individuals that you have researched do you think they sought to be renegades or existing in a world that felt appropriate for their circumstances?
and a lot of them are privateers with the license piracy operations and that they have a skill set i should use it with real piracy. and then the pirate needed to round out their crew with a specialized skill and could be forced to become a pirate. now the legacy i think blackbeard would love it. he was only around for a year and a half. he did accumulate a huge number of pirates operating under him near 400 on five
reputation as i gunfighter or a scout. so to find somebody that symbolizes the new frontier. and then they embellish to the article a bit. and they portrayed hickok and that is the face of the american frontier. and then the next was to have doctor living stone in africa so hickok became a legendary figure program at first he was embarrassed but then embraced it.
and then ask them to tell a story about something that he did that he never did. for a drink i'll tell the story. [laughter] because he had his own lifetime to see what it was likehi to be a legendary figure. >> can you ask a quick question? >> of the time. that you are writing about how would youou feel of what they played? even though it's based on the colonies and great britain of portugal or france or spain
and with those powers all the gold and silver emanating from south america. all the others are jealous of spain's riches. and so what happened later on is they are at a distinct disadvantage. and then searching for pirates the most powerful maritime nationd could only afford to dispatch five small metaphor to maine to the caribbean.